Saturday, August 27, 2011

Growing Alfalfa

Cowboy Vic is at it again!

He's had his farmer hat on for the past couple of weeks preparing to grow another alfalfa crop.

He's discovered that farming works when you have a little trial and error under your belt.  We are both certain that farming and growing is not easy, green thumb or not. Successful farming entails so many things like soil, water, climate, bugs, plant diseases, critter control, equipment, seed, time, and labor...just to name a few!

Backing up a bit, do you remember when I told you about the first time Vic decided to grow an alfalfa crop? You can catch up on that by reading how he got the swather and baler equipment, then, read the update on growing alfalfa.  

After all of that reading, you will be right on track with the story of the "Little Farmer That Could." I mean, you will be right on track with the story of the big-burly-muscular-cowboy that turns farmer when farming is on the list of things to do.

This is how it went....

Let me begin by pointing out, that I'm explaining this process from watching what's been going on, I'm not the farmer, Cowboy Vic is.  I try to grow things in the greenhouse and that's another story.

Vic chose this field because the land is level and the soil is rich.

First things first on the list was to get water to the field. 

 He had to put in 600 hundred feet of 3 inch schedule 40 PVC pipe to connect into the existing water line.  That's a lot of pipe!  The pipe had to be buried 4 feet into the ground to ensure the tractor rippers never hit the pipe.

It took one full day to dig the trenches and another full day to lay the pipe, connect the fittings, and bury the lines.  All of that had to be done to get to this...a bunch of valves sticking out of the ground.  

Really, it's much more than that, I'm pretty sure these valves are important.

The valves that you see sticking out of the ground are about 60 feet apart.  They are the ON and OFF valves that are used to connect a 10 foot hose to the sprinkler wheels.  So in other words, the sprinkler wheels move between each valve sprinkling the land, when the wheels roll to the next valve in the line, the hose has to be manually changed by unconnecting and reconnecting.  

Sounds like a lot of work to me.

Once the pipe and water were in place, the tractor got to come out and play.

The land where the seed will be planted had to be tilled to soften and aerate, which will help the seeds take root.

I have heard there is controversy as to whether or not to till the land.  In our case, the land is so hard and crispy from the hot and dry weather, rain, and cows stopping all over it, so Vic took no chances and tilled the land as he always has.

The land was tilled in rows and then cross tilled to ensure even churning.

Vic will be planting approximately 5 acres of land, with 250 lbs of seed, that's five 50 lb bags of seed.  It rounds out to about 50 lbs of seed per acre.  The hard-to-swallow part of all of this are the hard costs.  To grow a crop you have to have the land, the water system, electricity to run the well to water the land (in our part of the country), fencing to keep the cows out (if you have cows nearby), laborers to take care of the crop, and the seed. 

Speaking of seed, alfalfa seed prices have gone up 100% since last year.  One 50 lb bag of premium seed last year cost $100.00, this year it cost $200.00.  When seed prices go up that means alfalfa hay prices go up, which is not good news for the cattle and horse owners. 

Let me take a breath after all of this talking.....

[Okay, I'm back.]  

After the crop grows it has to be farmed about every 40 days.  That's the good part, farming equals alfalfa bales, and that's another story entirely!

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